Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 9, 2003
Chretien's bishop sends him a letter
Gervais takes PM to task for comments favouring abortion
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
Archbishop Marcel Gervais has sent a confidential letter to Prime Minister Jean Chretien admonishing him for saying that unlike U.S. President George W. Bush, "I am a Catholic and for abortion and he is not."
Gervais declined to comment on the letter or the PM's remarks, made to journalists aboard an Airbus en route to Europe May 28.
However, in his homily at the annual diocesan pro-life Mass May 29, the archbishop made reference to "public authorities" that "brag about the progress - imagine - the progress we have made in supporting free-choice and having no law to protect the unborn? Is that the kind of progress we want for our country?"
In a recent speech in Montreal, Chretien boasted that there are no major debates in Canada on the rights of the unborn "because we decided a long time ago in Canada it is the choice of women, which is not the case in a lot of U.S. states."
Abortion has been legal in Canada since 1969, during which time more than two million abortions have been performed. Canada has had no law against abortion since 1988.
Gervais said in his homily, "We need to pray most earnestly for our public authorities." But he issued a warning: "We must not let our criticism of public authorities blind us to the good that our government leaders do."
Chretien's comments on the Airbus also stirred reaction in the Senate and editorial condemnation in the Ottawa Citizen.
"As a Roman Catholic, I happen to be pro-life and believe in what the holy father in the Vatican teaches, a position of which I am proud," said Senator Gerry St. Germain.
Senator Sharon Carstairs, the government leader in the Senate, noted Chretien "has been very clear for many years that he is pro-choice, as am I and as are a number of people who practise the Catholic faith throughout the world."
The Ottawa Citizen wrote that Gervais is "right to chastise" Chretien for his remarks aboard the Airbus. It also asked, "So why can't politicians understand that they cannot be both practising Roman Catholics and supporters of abortion?"
The archbishop has criticized Chretien and his Liberal government's position on abortion at past pro-life Masses held to mark the feast of the Visitation. On one occasion he said Chretien "almost seemed to brag that one of the great accomplishments of the Liberal Party is the right of women to choose."
On another occasion, the archbishop said political leaders including Chretien know there is no peace in Canada on the abortion issue and that "there will be no peace until we protect life."
Gervais also criticized Chretien during the 2000 federal election campaign for telling a Catholic high school audience in Barrie, Ont., that it is up to a woman to decide whether to have an abortion "according to the values that this person has."
Apart from making passing reference to public officials who brag about progress made in supporting abortion as a free choice, Gervais also told those gathered at the most recent pro-life Mass that "Behind most abortions stands a coward," a reference to the men involved.
"Babies are not created out of thin air," he said. "There is always a male involved."
The archbishop added, "I cannot even begin to speak of the ones, men and women, who procure abortions. We need to pray for them all, we need to sacrifice for them for their sin is great."